In our last post we talked about some basic safety rules and tips to be aware of before you head out into the open ocean water on your paddleboard. These included getting the correct type of personal flotation device (PFD) and identifying and understanding the conditions before you head out. These include the weather forecast, wind direction and speed, surface swell, currents, and tides. For this post we’ll follow up with a few more tips that will make your ocean paddlboarding adventure more enjoyable and safe.
Whether you are surfing, touring or downwinding in the ocean it is always necessary to wear a leash. In the surf you could seriously hurt someone if your paddleboard was taken by a wave in an area where there were other people in the water. When out in the open water a leash is necessary keep your board with you especially when it’s windy or in areas with strong currents. Your board can get away from you very quickly. Swimming after your board can be exhausting and there is a good possibility you’ll never see it again leaving you stranded in water.
Coil or Straight Leashes
If your standup surfing wear a straight leash so that it does not get tangled around your fin and/or knotted up. A straight leash will also not recoil and send your board back towards you risking a head injury. If you’re not surfing you can wear either a straight or coiled leash but a coil leash is generally preferable since it does not drag in the water and slow you down. A coiled leash also tends to stay put and out of the way on your board better so you’re not always stepping on it.
You should definitely be familiar with how to get back on your board if you fall off. Being situated in the center of the board and pressing down with your hands as you kick and throw your back knee up and over is usually the easiest way. If your board is upside down you can flip it by grabbing the tail and turning flipping it to one side or the other- pressing down on side could have it come crashing down on your head. But paddleboards normally only flip over in the surf break.
Self-rescue also entails many other things that should have it’s own post. Things like knowing when to kneel and paddle or prone paddle in high winds. You should also be a confident and strong swimmer and know the correct ways to signal for help should you require it.
If you are going on a long paddle away from land you should go with at least one other person, bring a tow-line and know how to use it in case one of you can no longer paddle. For this, and other self-rescue techniques it is best to take a class by a certified instructor.
If you are going to be paddling in and/or out of harbors and other areas where there is boat traffic you will need to know the rules. There are a number of markers in the water including red and green cans, lighted and unlighted buoys, as well as beacons and moorings. Each has its own rule and meaning. (learn and remember “red, right, returning”). It’s important to understand what they are there for so that you don’t situate yourself in dangerous position in boat traffic. For example, you never want to be paddling inside of a boating lane. You must first recognize the lane, stop and wait for traffic to pass, then paddle hard and fast directly across and never linger in the lane. Learning to read a navigational chart will provide you with a lot of valuable information about the area where you are heading. They make waterproof ones so you can take it with you on your adventures.
If you come upon an area that has a lot of boat traffic or swimmers/surfers do your best to go around that area and give them plenty of distance from yourself. Be on the defensive and stay highly aware of the situation when in congested areas and you will be much better off.
Ocean paddleboarding has its own unique challenges that you will not encounter on most land-locked bodies of water. It is a very dynamic and powerful place that offers incredible experiences, but also demands a lot of respect and understanding. Check out your local SUP shop for more information on open water paddleboarding.